Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tips For Holiday Conversations about Estate Planning

This holiday season, as you gather with your family, is a perfect time to have those important conversations about what happens when someone passes away. One of the biggest causes of trust and probate litigation is as a result of lack of communication and in turn, mistrust and misunderstanding. Important questions to consider this holiday season are:

• What will happen when your parent’s pass away
• Have your parents done a will or trust, when was it last reviewed, and where is it?
• Who are their attorney, accountant, and financial advisor?
Here are some easy-to-use tips and conversation starters.
Tip #1 - Tell a story. When dealing with someone who is reluctant to discuss their plans, try telling them a story about someone you know, heard about, or have read about that had to deal with the struggles of someone’s death when there was no planning. (If you don’t have a story to tell, make one up)

Tip #2 - Just ask if your loved ones have done their estate planning. It doesn’t matter what age someone is, no one is guaranteed a long life. How often do you hear about a young mother or father losing their life? They most often have no plan in place. If your loved ones haven’t done their estate planning, encourage them to do so now.

Tip #3 - Confirm that they done what they said they did. If they have an estate plan, has it been updated recently? Have they transferred their assets into their trust? Having a trust or will alone is great but if it is not done the right way and not updated with new laws and life changes, it may not work as they imagine it will.
Tip #4 - Verify that their plan has been prepared or at least reviewed by an estate planning attorney. Not all attorneys handle estate planning but most will draft up a will for their clients. In addition, there are so many online do-it-yourself legal options out there, but cheaper is not better. Beware of trusts that try to be “one size fits all”. Estate plans are not “one size fits all”, they should be customized for your loved one’s needs.

Tip #5 - Know where they keep their estate plan documents. If no one knows where your family keeps their documents, how is anyone going to find them when they need them? Make sure that your loved ones tell you where those documents are located and that the trustee or executor can access them. Be cautious as well about safe deposit boxes. If you store documents there, be certain that person has access to the key and authorization on file with the bank to access the box.